Two draft Water Allocation Plans released for public comment

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has released two water allocation plans for public comment ‑ the draft Oolloo Dolostone Aquifer Water Allocation Plan 2019-2029 and draft Katherine Tindall Limestone Aquifer Water Allocation Plan 2019-2029.

DENR Water Planning and Engagement Director, Tim Bond, said both draft Plan areas are within the Daly Roper Beetaloo Water Control District and, while the Plans relate to different groundwater resources, the aquifer boundaries and management of surface water overlap.

“The draft Oolloo Plan is the first for that aquifer whereas the draft Katherine Plan is proposed to renew the existing Plan which expires on 19 August 2019,” Mr Bond said.

“Water Allocation Plans are statutory documents that provide guidance around the rules and arrangements for sharing water.

“The draft plans were developed in consultation with two local water advisory committees with the public now given until 15 July 2019 to provide comment on each plan.

“Both plans aim to ensure water resources are managed in a way that protects and maintains environmental and cultural values while allowing water to be sustainably used for consumptive beneficial uses.

“The Katherine and Douglas Daly regions play a vital economic role with industries such as agriculture and horticulture reliant on secure water for irrigation and competing uses are what underpin the draft plans.

“Water discharging from the Katherine Tindall Limestone Aquifer and the Oolloo Dolostone Aquifer is the major source of water for the Katherine and Daly Rivers during the dry season.

“Strong flows in the Daly and Katherine Rivers support important recreational fishing and tourism and provide the life blood to Katherine, the lower Daly and broader regional communities.

“Tourism and agribusiness in the region, worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the Territory’s economy, rely on water from these aquifers and this take must be sustainably managed.”

The draft Katherine and Oolloo plans will become statutory documents which provide guidance around the rules and arrangements for sharing water.

“Once a plan is declared trade can occur in that plan area providing a means for increased water availability,” Mr Bond said.

“A plan doesn’t operate at the level of individual licences and can’t enforce changes to licence conditions.”

The draft Katherine plan indicates that the system is over allocated but recognises that more detailed work on environmental and cultural flow requirements is needed to establish a sustainable level of use.

The draft Oolloo plan indicates the system is close to full allocation but water is still available for allocation through the Strategic Aboriginal Water Reserve.

The draft Oolloo Plan also proposes new protections for springs and areas of cultural and environmental significance.

Go to www.denr.nt.gov.au/katherinewaterplan and/or www.denr.nt.gov.au/oolloowaterplan to comment on one or both of the draft Plans before the 15 July 2019 closing date.

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